Patrick, Age 1.5 and more...
Patrick, Age 1.5
Gustaf Skarsgård, Torkel Petersson, Tom Ljungman, Annika Hallin, Amanda Davin
If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming family comedy about an imperfect couple and their struggles to adopt a child, allow me to recommend Patrick, Age 1.5 by Swedish director Ella Lemhagen. It’s predictable in the way such films usually are but also includes several elements which stretch the range of the genre. First of all, the adoptive parents are two men, Goran (Gustaf Skarsgard) and Sven (Torkel Petersson). Second, someone in the social services office misplaced a decimal point and Goran and Sven’s bundle of joy turns out to be a 15-year-old juvenile delinquent and homophobe who is less than delighted with his prospective new home. No points for guessing that most of it works out in the end, although not entirely as expected, but isn’t the purpose of this type of film to reassure us that most people are well-intentioned and everything will be OK? Sarah Boslaugh
Elisabeth Shue ,Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Steven R. McQueen
There is never a moment when Piranha 3D doesn’t know exactly what it is doing. From the abundant female nudity to the equally plentiful gore, it’s got the fright film fan zeitgeist right in its Web head sites. This is the kind of movie that gets Messageboard Nation all nerd-ed out. Heck, it even starts with a gum-flapping cameo that will have true cinephiles giggling like 1975 school girls. This may also be the first time in the artform’s history that a remake of a rip-off actually goes back to deliberately channel the original title that spawned the copycat. In other words, Aja and his team of screenwriters are so enamored of what Steven Spielberg did with Jaws that the shout-outs are obvious, and the knotty nods more than a little meta. Bill Gibron
Antonio Zúñiga, Eva Gutiérrez, Rafaél Ramirez Heredia, Roberto Hernández, Layda Negrete
Roberto Hernandez’ and Geoffrey Smith’s collaboration has gone out into the world as a documentary, but I defy anyone to make a more riveting, pulse-pounding crime thriller. This singular story stands as an example of what happens to thousands of inmates in Mexico. José Antonio Zúñiga is facing a closed “trial” with the state prosecutor’s office, an entity with a 95 percent conviction rate, in which guilt, not innocence, is presumed, abetted by casual and malicious perjury by local police officers. Zúñiga is serving 20 years for a homicide that took place as he was blocks away in full view of several witnesses. His case caught the attention of Berkeley, California-based attorneys Hernández and Layda Negrete (The Tunnel). Their cameras blow the lid off the Mexican court system by meticulously recording Zúñiga’s surreal appeal process inside prison walls. Particular nod of admiration to Smith (The English Surgeon) for razor-sharp dramaturgical work. Pamela Cohn
Sky Ferreira, Cody Ray, Dustin Ray, James Siebor, Jr.
Matthew Porterfield’s second feature is an unabashed ode to shared memory and loss, a beautifully realized piece of work, making good on the artistic promise that many critics and supporters noted in his début film, Hamilton. Putty Hill, a mostly improvised piece with non-actors, represents a bespoke style of narrative realism. The film coalesces around the story of a young man’s untimely death, which brings together his fractured family in a working-class community in Baltimore. Porterfield has a certain genius for expressing an unfiltered state of mind using the minimum of dialogue. His film is lush, filled with nostalgia and longing, the performances of his young protagonists tender and strange, a rare portrayal of teens lost in suburbia, told in the subtle rhythms that represent a life lived. Haunting and gorgeous, Putty Hill is a homegrown elegy that cagily, and quietly, packs an emotional wallop. Pamela Cohn
Mads Brügger, Jacob Nossell, Simon Jul
Winner of the 2010 Sundance World Cinema Jury Prize for Documentary, the aptly named Danish director, Mads Brügger, provides a rare glimpse of the dystopic urban nightmare that is Pyongyang, North Korea. And, what at first seems like a Python-esque charade played just for laughs, manages to provide plenty of fiercely sobering moments due mostly to a brilliant script masterminded by its director, a star journalist and personality in his native Denmark. In other countries, one can be labeled a dissident and still go home and have dinner with the kids. Not in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Brügger constantly compares current-day North Korea with Hitler’s reign (the title references a communist spy cell that operated in Nazi Germany), and chillingly portrays the mad clapping and smiling that goes on amongst its citizens as sheer terror. Brügger is a ferocious cultural insurgent, the camera his most potent weapon. Pamela Cohn